Belarusian Widow Ordered To Pay Taxes On Donations Received After Police Killed Her Husband

By RFE/RL's Belarus Service

MINSK -- The widow of a Belarusian activist who was shot dead in August 2020 by riot police in Minsk has been ordered to pay taxes on donations she received after the killing.

Alena Herman, the widowed mother of a 4-year-old girl, received the donations after her 34-year-old husband, Alyaksandr Taraykouski, became the first fatality in a brutal crackdown by police on demonstrations against the disputed presidential election.

Election officials said longtime authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka won the vote. But the United States, the European Union, and several other countries refuse to recognize the official tally and do not consider Lukashenka as the country's legitimate leader.

Herman said on June 16 that tax authorities in Minsk had ordered her to pay taxes totaling more than 11,000 rubles ($4,430) on the donations. She said she thinks the tax is wrong.

"My husband was self-employed and everything he earned he used to support our family," Herman said. "All donations I received from good people were made, I believe were made, from their own pockets, after taxes."

Belarus's Investigative Committee decided in February not launch a probe into Taraykouski death. It claims that Taraykouski was "very drunk" and "provoked" riot police to use "nonlethal weapons" against him.

Initially, officials said Taraykouski was killed by an improvised explosive device he was trying to throw at riot police. However, graphic footage of his death posted on social media contradicted official claims.

The site of Taraykouski's death near the Pushkin subway station in Minsk temporarily became a makeshift memorial where protesters gathered regularly, bringing flowers and renewing "We will not forget" inscriptions on the sidewalk.

Several protesters have been killed and thousands of people arrested during the months of demonstrations.

There have also been credible reports of detainees being tortured by the authorities during the crackdown.

Most opposition leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country, including Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya -- the opposition candidate that many believe was the legitimate winner of the election.